Recommended Reading: The New York Times’s feature on Dana Spiotta. “When Dana Spiotta was working on her fourth novel, Innocents and Others, she sat beneath a huge bulletin board pinned with her sticky notes and research materials: lists of relevant words (passion, transformation, intimacy) and ‘seeing’ devices (zoetrope, stereoscope, camera obscura), and photographs of Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard and the Maysles brothers. ‘It’s like walking into the book,’ Spiotta told me. ‘You feel it all around you.’” To prepare for her upcoming release, revisit our review of Stone Arabia.
If your default mood hovers between melancholy and despair, you may be cheered (or at least made a bit less glum) by this argument that striving for happiness is bad for us in the long run. Mari Ruti makes the case that a “happy, balanced life” depends in large part on a kind of emotional numbness.
The Hunger Games raked in $155 million in its opening weekend. That makes it the highest-grossing non-sequel debut of all time. Over at Salon, Laura Miller tracks the steps that led to the blockbuster’s mammoth success.
In memory of Peter Matthiessen, The Missouri Review has unlocked an interview with him from 1989. Matthiessen detailed the beginning of his writing career. “I started my first novel and sent off about four chapters and waited by the post office for praise to roll in, calls from Hollywood, everything. Finally my agent sent me a letter that said ‘Dear Peter, James Fenimore Cooper wrote this a hundred and fifty years ago, only he wrote it better. Yours, Bernice.’ I probably needed that; it was very healthy.” For more Matthiessen, you can read one of his best travel essays or his new novel, In Paradise.